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Risk tips for marketing consultants

12/05/2011

With a Megaphone By A Wall garryknight

Brand new concepts, same old problems

Businesses today have nowhere to hide. Like it or not, customers talk like never before and, thanks to the wonder of the internet, their voices can be heard all over the world.

How does a company's marketing strategy deal with that? Do they jump in, embrace it and make it work for them or do they stick with what they know because they know it works?

They’ve probably heard of social media marketing and the benefits of getting involved in their customers’ communities but to many it’s a brave new world.

What’s certain is that they want you to point them in the right direction. And do a fair bit of hand-holding too.

What’s also certain is that they want results. Brave new world or not, their marketing has to work.

Mind the gap

No problem – you’ve had to adapt and learn new concepts too. The traditional marketing model has changed, for good it seems, and your value lies in understanding the new.

Narrowing your clients’ knowledge gap is also part of your job but you need to tread carefully. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Problem is, once you’ve briefed your clients on their new strategy, and they’re more familiar with what’s involved, you have the weight of their expectation to deal with.

Of course, explaining to your clients that your methods take time and that they won’t see instant results helps, but it can sound like an excuse.

Duck and cover

Hmm, time to get out while the going’s good then? Well not necessarily.

Some preparation before you start work on your contracts, and some gentle client management along the way can make all the difference.

Document exactly what’s expected, by whom and when before you start. Keep and update a project timeline as you go. Having some well-defined, signed terms and conditions could prove invaluable too.

If we’re talking self-preservation then the first thing to ask yourself is ‘what’s my liability? If I make a mistake, what could happen and how much will it cost me to put right?’

That’s really your worst-case scenario and it’s where you should start. If you identify every potential pitfall in a contract, it’s straightforward enough to work back and consider which are the biggest areas of risk – and do something about them before you might actually have to.

It might seem obvious but, as a starting point, try thinking about:

• What am I being asked to do? And can I actually do it? (Be honest!)
• What is my client expecting at the end? Can I deliver, on time and to spec?
• Will I control all or part of a budget? (Google spend, for example.)
• Is part of the contract particularly specialist? If I’m using a subcontractor to help me, do they have professional indemnity insurance?
• What sign off procedure, if any, is in place?

Risk aversion

What else? If you don’t already have it, invest in a specialist professional indemnity insurance policy. The security that comes with knowing the might of an insurer and their legal team are behind you is not to be sniffed at.

Most policies will include essential cover for claims of intellectual property infringement and defamation as standard. The best policies will even include cover for the cost of fixing a mistake before your client is even aware of it. Nifty huh?

For most businesses, marketing strategies involve risk – necessarily. Just make sure you’re not making things unnecessarily risky for your business too.

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